I wrote another Holiday Letter this year. For the past two years my son and daughter composed the missive. Ever since I put a collection of Holiday Letters in my book, My Father’s Writings, I felt less compelled to write a new one. But this year was different. I had written down a couple of quotes that I ran across during the year, with the idea of writing a Holiday Letter around them. Then I realized that what I have always done at Christmas time, and what I was setting out to do again this year, was really to write a blog, not a Holiday Letter. In looking back over almost 20 years of letters, it is clear now that I was essentially writing an annual print blog before the word “blog” was a part of our vocabulary.
Writing holiday commentary around Karlfried Graf Durckheim’s words isn’t too much of a stretch for a Holiday Letter: “Thus, the first and most vital practice in everyday life is to learn effectively to value those moments in which we are touched by something hitherto undreamt of.” Indeed, one could argue that Gift of the Magi, Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, the candles of Chanukah and the magic of Santa Claus all fit within the context of this quote. But rather than expand on that theme for a Holiday Letter, I went with a brief family update, and one simple message for this season. I hope you find some meaning in it.
Holiday Letter ‘13
This year we have learned that life is what happens while we make other plans. Just a year ago it was all so different; Craig was broadcasting baseball in Mobile, Alabama, Paige was enjoying the creativity and love of The Cambridge School of Weston, and I was commuting to Richmond, Virginia every week. Now, Craig is broadcasting and writing for mlb.com in Melbourne, Australia, Paige is in the middle of her freshman year at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and I have started a new job at a great firm with a Boston office.
Many of you have children off on their own unexpected adventures, so you know that we can only prepare them, we can’t control them! Just heard last night that Craig is trying his hand at broadcasting for the Melbourne Ice of the Australian Woman’s Ice Hockey League. Paige is playing Ultimate Frisbee, and had tournaments this fall in Virginia and Georgia. Reid, well he is just being Reid, now a 23-year old young man who still exhibits the innocence of a child. Karen has made it her newest project to find a great group home for him that will allow him to live as independently as possible in future years. One of this year’s highlights was celebrating my Dad’s 80th birthday with family and friends – it’s wonderful to see him so happy and healthy.
One of my favorite times each week is when a young man arrives at the Sunday morning church service pushing an older man in a wheelchair. The connection between the two is palpable; one is the caretaker, the other, the-cared-for. The man in the wheelchair has special needs – not unlike Reid, so I am sure we have a soft spot for the situation. I was scribbling some notes for this letter in church last Sunday when they arrived. Moments later the caretaker ascended the steps to the pulpit and, for the first time in my experience, did a reading. As someone who believes that there is no such thing as coincidence, it did not surprise me that the subject of his reading was just what I needed for inspiration.
He read a passage in which John told a crowd to “bear fruits worthy of repentance,” and the people asked him “what then should we do?” In reply John said: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” That really makes it all sound so simple. And it is.
I can think of just three times in my life when I actually felt the physical experience of being weightless – like I was actually floating a bit. One was when I handed out $50 bills at a store a few days before Christmas, another was when Craig and I delivered Christmas presents to children whose parents were incarcerated, and the third was when Karen and I joined a group from our church to serve dinner to 75 homeless men at a shelter in Boston. In each case my heart was racing, my smile was uncontrollable and I found myself a little short of breath. The exhilaration was scary good…..all of these experiences had one thing in common – giving without any expectation of return.
We have all heard the phrase “higher than a kite,” which is typically used to describe someone who has taken drugs or had too much to drink. Yet, I cannot imagine anything approaching the ‘high’ that comes from selfless acts of giving. Let us all be lifted above soaring kites this holiday season, and fill the coming year with random acts of kindness and exhibitions of unconditional love.